Defense contractor Raytheon Co. is expected to link with Finmeccanica SpA to bid in the upcoming competition for the contract to replace the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of Northrop T-38 Talon fighter-jet training aircraft. The successful bidder could gain an award estimated at $8 billion to $10 billion as the USAF replaces a fleet of training aircraft that in some cases are up to 50 years old.
The USAF’s T-X Program represents an order for about 350 aircraft, initially, though that figure could rise to as many as 1,000 aircraft over the life of the program. The replacement program had been expected to begin in 2017, but the constraints in U.S. defense spending over recent years have advanced the program’s initial operating capability date roughly to 2023.
Recently, Lockheed Martin announced it would team with Korea Aerospace Industries on a bid involving their co-developed T-50A aircraft to replace the T-38 jet, rather than a “clean sheet” design. Boeing Defense reportedly will join with Saab AB to develop a new training plane, and Textron Inc. and Northrop Grumman Corp are designing new planes as well.
Raytheon has a series of defense system and technology specialties, including missile systems, space and airborne technologies, intelligence, computer security, and integrated defense systems.
Finmeccanica, headquartered in Rome, is one of Italy’s largest industrial groups and a global supplier of aerospace and defense systems, including aeronautic systems, helicopters, electronics, and space systems.
Reportedly, Raytheon and Finmeccanica began laying plans to bid for the fighter-jet replacement program 16 months ago. Their partnership for the T-X Program would focus on an existing aircraft rather than a new design, reducing cost and accelerating the aircrafts’ availability. A new variant of Finmeccanica’s Aermacchi M-346 fighter jet would be customized to the program’s objectives.
The Aermacchi M-346 is a twin-engine trainer aircraft, introduced in 2004 and currently operated by the air forces of Italy, Israel, The Netherlands, Poland, and Singapore.
In addition to Raytheon and Finmeccanica, Honeywell International Inc. would supply the F124 turbofan engines for the aircraft, and CAE Inc. would provide a ground training system.
Jim Hvizd, vice president of business development for Raytheon's space and airborne systems division, recently explained that Raytheon's T-100 aircraft, an advanced variant of the M-346, would have distinct safety advantages for the USAF because of its flight control technology which stabilizes a jet automatically if a pilot loses control of the aircraft.
Raytheon indicated several sites are under consideration for the program’s manufacturing operations, if it is successful in its bid.